Friday, October 07, 2016

Operation Sledgehammer: Initial assault

The Crusade attack, dubbed operation Sledgehammer came on 0110.016M42. Transported by the rag tag Crusade fleet, the usual element of surprise utilised by the Crusade was lost, as were the critical airborne capabilities of the Charcaradons and Minotaurs. Instead the Crusade landed in the desert, unopposed, then raced for their three key objectives.

The crusade had targetted the three main northern cities of Whitaker (the capital), Kaplinski and Wilhoughby. Taking these rapidly, the crusade reasoned, would quickly lead to the capitulation of loyalist resistance on the planet. To take the capital, the Cadian 9th regiment, supported by a small detachment of Grey Knights, would surround and cut off the city itself, which the crusade thought would be only weakly defended. Further west, the Cadians would be joined by the Sky Lords, in order to deliver a precision strike against the refineries of Kaplinksi, while in the east, Whiloughby was the target of the Vannaheim guard regiments.

The assault on Whitaker soon hit problems, with the Space Wolves and Ultramarines already in position to defend against an assault. The Space Wolves soon battered the initial Cadian thrusts into the city, and the arrival of the Ultramarines wrecked the Cadian equipment and quickly discouraged the Grey Knights from intervening by neutralising and capturing their initial recon forces. The Grey Knights, shocked by the astartes defending a supposedly seditious world, soon began to lose faith in Vorushko's crusade. The Cadians meanwhile followed their orders, but after the battle many Cadian survivors, especially officers, were handed over to Inquisitor Hathek's "re-education" units. By 0410.016M42 the crusade attack on Whitaker had been completely wiped out.

At Kaplinski, the Lycaon guard were ready and waiting for the crusade attack. First the Sky Lords' armoured push into the centre of the settlement was rapidly neutralised by overwhelming and frighteningly accurate firepower, supported by a particularly fired up Imperial Psyker. The Sky Lords took heavy casualties and lost all their vehicles as imperial artillery and tank fire took its toll. With no air support, the Sky Lords were pinned down and within 24 hours had begun to withdraw what little forces they had left. The Cadians, following up, soon faced the full might of the Lycaon forces, and despite being well equipped and highly mechanised, once again the Lycaon firepower had the desired effect, and the assault on Kaplinksi collapsed. The remaining Cadians surrendered to the loyalist forces, and Vorushko lost all the Cadian forces deployed on Libria I.

Willoughby, assaulted by the Vannaheim Guard, was similarly a disaster for the crusade, as despite making initial gains on the city, the Vannaheim soldiers could not do enough damage quickly enough against the numerically superior Novgorod forces. Again well entrenched artillery proved decisive, and the Vannaheim attack floundered. The crusade forces began an orderly retreat, as Vorushko ordered an evacuation, but a flanking attack from the Dark Angels delivered the coup-de-grace for the final crusade forces left on the planet. By 0610.016M42 the entire Libria II assault force had been wiped out, and the Crusade had lost nearly a third of its fighting force. In this one catastrophic invasion attempt, the Crusade found itself on the verge of collapse.

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